On Tuesday, the Wisconsin Assembly passed Assembly Bill 343, authored by Rep. Romaine Quinn (R-Cameron) and Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), which ensures that a critical economic development program will continue. The bill updates language in the Transportation Facilities Economic Assistance and Development (TEA grant) program, which is used to improve highways, airports, or harbors, or provide certain other assistance for the improvement of such transportation facilities or certain rail property or railroad tracks.

The Department of Transportation (DOT), which administers the grants, has always provided them on the basis of either new jobs being created or old jobs retained. However, due to unclear language in the statute text, DOT believed the program could only legally provide grants based on creating new jobs, rather than including retained jobs.

“Both new and existing jobs are important for rural communities,” said Rep. Quinn, “and rewarding projects that only benefit new jobs ignores the contributions of our existing businesses. When rural companies are struggling to stay competitive, helping our neighbors keep their jobs is just as important as creating new ones.”

The current biennial budget for the TEA grant program is $6.8 million. In the 30 year life of the program, TEA funding has been utilized in almost every corner of Wisconsin, including projects in Spooner, Rice Lake, Barron, Chetek, Amery, and Clear Lake.

The bill was introduced with bipartisan support, and passed unanimously in both the Senate and Assembly. The bill will next go to the Governor’s desk to be signed.

“This is a great example of finding issues that we can work together on,” said Rep. Quinn. “Both my Republican colleagues, as well as Democrats and the DOT administration, saw the importance of making sure we fully support rural economies, and correct the language of the TEA grant program.”

An interactive map of the TEA grant program can be found here.

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